When Simon Robbie and Aimee Andrews found out just before Christmas that their rented home was being demolished, they immediately began searching for a new place to live. But it quickly became apparent that the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions had placed even greater pressure on Nelson’s already tight rental market, and rents for the few available places had skyrocketed.
“The situation was looking quite grim,” Robbie recalls, as they faced a substantial increase in rent. Leaving Nelson was out of the question, as they both have jobs here.
Then they learned of an amazing opportunity to actually own their own home, with a mortgage they could afford. Habitat for Humanity Southeast B.C. announced it was inviting applications for a three-bedroom half-duplex right in Nelson. While it’s sold at fair market value, no down payment is required, the mortgage is interest-free thanks to Habitat, and the income-qualified purchasers commit to 500 volunteer hours, becoming partner families with the organization.
“When we found out our tenancy was being terminated we reached out to everyone we knew,” says Andrews. “Literally the second Habitat posted it, we were flooded with texts, social media messages and calls to apply. We had our application in that night, I believe.”
Interest in the home was high. When Habitat put out the call for applications on its social media, the post went viral in the Nelson area, and Habitat was swamped with inquiries, resulting in a record number of applications, says William Caley, who chairs Habitat’s Family Services Committee. After his committee carefully reviewed all the applicants, Robbie and Andrews were chosen.
“They met all the criteria and were the best fit for the home – the need for decent, affordable housing, the ability to carry the mortgage, and [they have] a willingness to partner with Habitat,” said Caley.
He was delighted to let Andrews and Robbie, who have two daughters, know they’d been selected. “It’s a lovely home. The school is literally around the corner so it’s a good family location.”
Before the family moved in, HFHSEBC board members refreshed the paint throughout the home, and completed some maintenance and improvements, with the help and support of Nelson Home Hardware Building Centre, Hardy Painting, and Samurai Hardwood Flooring.
That kind of community support is key to Habitat’s success, and it works both ways. Because the Habitat ReStore is in Castlegar, Andrews and Robbie will be completing their 500 volunteer hours in the Nelson community as their contribution to Habitat. This fits perfectly with the Habitat philosophy, Caley added, noting that the duplex was originally built by Habitat with community volunteer labour.
“It’s about building community as well as building houses,” he stated.
And both Robbie and Andrews are deeply committed to making a difference in Nelson, as a way of thanking the community that has welcomed their family. With the arrival of their daughters, Nelson has provided them with a village to help raise their family, since neither has relatives close by.
“Our friends have become our family,” says Robbie, adding that the local Family Place has been a valuable resource and helped them in learning to navigate being parents. “We are especially thankful for all their support since the recent shutdowns.”
The couple and their two daughters moved into their new home March 1, and are thrilled to be homeowners for the first time.
To find out more about Habitat’s work, donating, or volunteering, please visit www.hfhsebc.org.